The Showdown is a band that seemingly can't decide who they want to be. Their first major-label release, A Chorus of Obliteration, was a death-tinged metalcore outing, which was followed inexplicably by Temptation Come My Way's clean, southern rock sound. Following that album and a new deal with Solid State, they put out Back Breaker, a halfway-there mix between the metal of Obliteration and the Southern rock of Temptation. Their fourth installment, Blood in the Gears, is mostly a continuation of the sound of Back Breaker.
While lead vocalist David Bunton can certainly scream and growl along with any metal vocalist, the overall structure and feel of the tracks on Blood in the Gears is that of a hard rock album. Many of the songs have a straightforward verse-chorus structure, with a traditional growled verse/clean chorus format. There's a fair amount of metalcore chugging, but for the most part, the drums drive straight ahead in a typical rock beat, with occasional double bass flourishes.
As was the case of previous albums, it's hard to tell exactly where the band is going on many tracks. Frequently, a song will open with a catchy metal riff and strong growled vocals, only to be broken up by a lackluster, Southern rock singing chorus. While Bunton can certainly do the Southern sound, for the most part, the sung choruses just don't have meaningful melodies to justify their inclusion. At the same time, the instrumentation is often not enough to keep the listener interested for very long. The drumming is mostly pretty basic, and the guitar solos sound like nearly every other metal solo, with lots of fast picking and tapping and very little interesting ideas. In a sense, it's probably fortunate that the album is only ten tracks, lest it drag too long due to the lack of variation.
That's not to say there aren't some very good songs. "Bring it Down" is a two-minute firebrand of a track with pummeling double bass, blastbeats, a nice little bass solo, and Bunton successfully reaching into the lower end of his range. "Graveyard of Empires" is the album's definite highlight with a varied, rhythmic metal approach and just enough Southern touch to keep it interesting. Unfortunately, there are also several mediocre tracks, including the half-ballads "Take Me Home" and "Diggin' My Own Grave," both of which get bogged down in an attempt to be heavy and melodic, ultimately not accomplishing either.
With Blood in the Gears, it seems that The Showdown have found a sound they want to stick with. Unfortunately, they still need better execution to take full advantage of the niche they're trying to fill. When you listen to bands like Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, there's no question that the Southern metal sound has been done better than we find here. And so, Blood in the Gears is an album with the occasional high point, but not enough consistency to be memorable.- Review date: 8/21/10, written by Timothy Estabrooks of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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